“In The Summertime” comes close to being a genuine guilty pleasure. Not because of the track’s charmingly rickety arrangement, or its lopsided shuffle beat, but because those elements make this pen-portrait of an idle young blade’s life all too seductive. “We’re not bad people, we’re not dirty, we’re not mean. We love everybody but we do what we please.” – and who they please, too. Mungo Jerry’s elegant wastrels remind me a little of the rich older boys I distantly knew at school, whose life I imagined (half in disgust, half in envy) to be one long ball: actually they probably spent the summer mooching around just like I did. But I don’t think my experiences have much to do with the appeal of the record – disapproval and delight at others’ wicked lives are old, old emotions, and so is the sense that Summertime is for the young and selfish.
My first encounter with Mungo Jerry’s record was on an oldies TV show which paired the song with video of sideburned Edwardian toffs on an endless sepia-toned jolly. Ever since then the rhythm has brought to mind a penny farthing, something absurd and antique but oddly appealing. The band almost sabotage their own song with their hokey “oohs” and “alright alright”s – harking back to Top Cat and forward to “Hey Ya!” – but somehow it works. Of all summertime hits this is the ripest – the fat, lazy, entitled sound of a season on the brink of turning rotten.